Boston Red Sox June was no swoon in 2022

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 25: Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom of the Boston Red Sox addresses the media during an end of season press conference on October 25, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 25: Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom of the Boston Red Sox addresses the media during an end of season press conference on October 25, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Red Sox demise is all about pitching as the month of June demonstrates

What happened to the Boston Red Sox in June? That was an impressive 20-6 month that energized the fan base, gave positive reviews from the media, and struck fear into opponents, especially in the American League East, but first a backtrack.

April had showers, but it was not rain, but losses, and the team slithered to a 9-13 record. Chaim Bloom was being metaphorically gutted for building a product that would make a Bugatti look like a Ford Pinto. Manager Alex Cora pulled the wrong levers consistently, and the fan base was creating torches.

The Red Sox have a long-standing tradition of living and dying by the bat, and die they did in April. Fangraphs had them dead last in the American League (AL) with a 66 wRC+ and a -0.9 fWAR, with the rest of the traditional and advanced metrics statistics along for the ride. Then came the “pitching.”

Baseball has some great teams that won with rubber arms and rubber bats. Usually called “hitless wonders.” The Chicago White Sox produced two such teams: the 1906 Deadball Era team and the 1959 lively ball team. They both had fantastic staffs. But in April, the only significant part of the Red Sox staff was they were not dead last statistically, but still were in the lower statistical depths of AL pitching.

In May, the Sox staged a recovery (14-14), but the pitching still languished with a 13th AL ranking. Neither the bullpen nor the rotation was remarkable. Occasionally, one can carry the other, but the recovery was spurred on by hitting. Collectively Boston bats were ranked first in the AL for May. What would happen in a perfect baseball world if you could combine the two?

In June, the hitting took a slight step back but still ranked high in run production (129) and 114 wRC+. Collectively that was overall fifth but oh, that pitching! They were ranked first for the month, and it was balanced as the rotation (first), and bullpen (third) won the month and spurred hope for a glorious season. Bloom was a magnificent genius; Cora, a brilliant strategist and pitching coach Dave Bush, should be extended until the next ice age.

The starting pitching was remarkable, going 16-4. Nick Pivetta (4-1, 2.25) rebounded from the depths of pitching despair. New scrap pile additions Rich Hill (3-1, 3.00) and Michael Wacha (3-0, 3.03) were joined by rookie Josh Winckowski (3-0, 2.12). Nathan Eovaldi (2-0, no earned runs) had some downtime, but Garrett Whitlock, Kutter Crawford, and Connor Seabold stepped in. The bullpen stepped up with new closer Tanner Houck bagging six saves. What could go wrong?

July went wrong is the correct answer. What the baseball Gods give the baseball Gods are capable of taking away, and as usual, it circulates around that little bump in the middle of the diamond. The pitching tanked. And with it, the month of July (8-19).

Pivetta and Winckowski combined to go 1-7. Chris Sale arrived and was soon gone to injury. Hill tossed only 4.2 innings. Brayan Bello got a rude introduction to MLB. Nasty Nate pitched to an 11.08 ERA. And the bullpen started their crash and burn for 2022.

The hitting decided to backtrack to April to lead the reverse charge. The offense tacked on an 87 wRC+ and just 104 runs – certainly not enough to cover the degrading hurlers. The defense continued with poor decisions, treating the ground balls like live hand grenades and a general malaise associated with teams going bad.

Bloom and management did little to rectify the situation except to have the Worcester express running full time, but this team will not win with what was promoted and then quickly demoted. Hindsight is excellent, but the only way this team could have sustained a competitive challenge is for pitching to remain relatively free of injury, have the quality from the minors to plug holes, and to make reasonable trades that supply the quality lacking from the minors.

The significance of the little bump was demonstrated in June and will most likely be the prime off-season target for making the team relevant. They may be forced to make an Eovaldi-type four-year offer to Wacha with his past resume that is more prone to the risk than the reward side of the pitching equation. Expect a youth movement in the rotation with Bello and possibly Bryan Mata.

Bloom will need a competent bullpen, and his future employment with the Red Sox will depend upon it. With Houck’s future a potential question mark over back complications, Boston will have to scour the market for a closer unless Whitlock is the answer.

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But that June glares out for me since I am and have always been a convert to the cult of great pitching. That is the foundation of any solid baseball team; at this point, that foundation is in shambles.